The Malawi government has begun talks with Tanzania to resolve the border dispute over Lake Malawi, Malawi's Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim M'ganda Chiume told reporters on Friday.
The Minister played down fears of looming diplomatic tensions between the two neighbouring countries following Malawi's decision to start exploration of oil on Lake Malawi.
"The fact that our two countries are engaged in open and cordial discussions over the issue is a very good signal and therefore there should be no reason for any anxiety," said Chiume at a news conference in Lilongwe.
The Minister however thinly unveiled that Malawi would not give up an inch of the Lake when he said from the Heligoland treaty and the OAU/AU resolutions; it is Malawi government's conviction that border still remains the eastern shores of Lake Malawi.
"Tanzania believes that the border should be along the middle of Lake Malawi. They base their argument on common international law whereby situations where two countries are separated by a body of water, the border is along the middle of that body of water," he said adding;
"It is Malawi's position that the principle which Tanzania depends upon applies only where there is no treaty. It does not apply in this case because the border was clearly and specifically defined in a treaty."
There was no immediate comment from the Tanzanian embassy in Lilongwe but last week print media quoted Tanzania's Foreign Affairs Minister Benard Mzembe warning that further exploration of oil in Lake Malawi will jeopardize the ongoing negotiations and ignite security threat.
"...any exploration or research activities for oil or gas must stop forthwith as this will likely to jeopardize the on-going negotiations and pose a security threat," Mzembe was quoted as saying.
In 2011 Malawi awarded gas and oil exploration contract to Surestream to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment.
But Tanzania wants this to stop and also reportedly seeks part ownership of the lake.
According to the Malawi's Foreign Affairs Minister, the border between the two countries was defined in the Heligoland Treaty in signed 1890 by Germany and Britain – colonial masters of Tanzania and Malawi respectively.
"Furthermore the Heads of State of OAU made a resolution in 1963 that member states should recognize and accept the borders that were inherited at the time of independence. The African Union made similar resolutions in 2002 and 2007," said Chiume